Monorail maker Bombardier has a new mystery shopper big enough to be Disney | Art Stories + Interviews | Orlando
For years, Disney World fans have hoped the resort will finally add new monorails to replace the aging fleet that continually makes headlines with breakdowns and stranded passengers. Although literal parts are falling off the three-decade-old trains, Disney has given no indication that it plans to replace them.
Rumors swirled last year that Bombardier, which built the current Mark VI trains, had been awarded a contract for a new fleet. At the time, the main source of the rumors was a fan site that Disney has since publicly called “unscrupulous”, due to the publication of multiple unfounded rumors. However, speculation of a new fleet was buoyed the same year when retired Imaginator Bob Gurr, who designed both the original Disneyland monorails and WDW’s first monorail fleet, publicly stated “there has ongoing contracts” for new monorails.
Also at the time, it was speculated that the new trains would likely be a bespoke version of Bombardier’s INNOVIA 300 trains, whose exterior design is strikingly similar to WDW’s monorails.
Since then, there has been no indication that Disney is actually moving forward with the supposed deals. In June of this year, Disney began rolling out a refurbished version of the current monorails, with the first updated train being Monorail Silver.
Although less than six months old, the refurbished Silver cars are already showing wear, with some guests complaining of poor air conditioning, loose vinyl on the seats and an unpleasant odor best described as “the retirement home meets the college locker room”.
Now, thanks to a little note in Bombardier’s latest quarterly earnings report, rumors of a new fleet are heating up again. The report notes a North American deal for $104 million in rolling stock and $247 million in services for an undisclosed customer. Some fans have begun to guess that the undisclosed client might be Walt Disney World.
As we mentioned in 2018, the combination of services and fleet is more common as Bombardier moves to a service-based profit model, similar to the direction taken by Apple. This dual fleet and operating contract is the type of arrangement Bombardier has with SunRail, where it both delivers the trains and oversees their ongoing maintenance.
The $104 million worth of rolling stock would be enough to replace at least some of WDW’s aging monorails. Bombardier’s newest trains use the latest technology for seamless autonomous operations, which means Disney could choose to cut costs by eliminating monorail pilots. This is not to say that the company would ever choose profits over people.
Automated trains would also mean a single contract for Disney, instead of negotiating contracts with local unions.
While Disney would clearly benefit from new monorails, there are plenty of other options as to who the undisclosed North American customer might be. Las Vegas is expanding its monorail system, which initially used monorails that Disney sold them, although unlike Disney, it has since been updated with newer trains. The new Vegas Monorail extension will add two new stations when it opens. This expansion should open in late 2020 or early 2021, which would be a logical time for another update to its fleet.
Other possible customers include San Francisco International Airport, where just two days before the end of the second financial quarter, Bombardier announced a $220 million service contract, which, like that of SunRail, has a minimum term of ten years. The similar cost of the new service contract to the SunRail and San Francisco contracts indicates that the recently announced agreement is also for a minimum term of ten years.
With several other airport expansions and numerous other rail projects underway across the country, there is no indication that this new contract involves Disney World. As with previous reports, at this time there’s nothing to suggest this latest speculation about a new monorail fleet is anything more than wishful thinking, but let’s hope Disney replaces the fleet before other pieces of the current trains do. fall.
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